Exceptional response to the National Famine Way Commemorative Walk 2024

Exceptional response to the National Famine Way Commemorative Walk 2024 and launch of Global Irish Famine Way

The National Famine Way Commemorative Walk took place over six days from Monday 20th to Saturday 25th May 2024 passing through six counties and celebrating with seven local authorities along the way. Led by the Ambassador of Ireland to Canada, Eamonn McKee and representatives of the Liverpool Irish Famine Trail the walk culminated in the launch of the Global Irish Famine Way. The walk began at the National Famine Museum | Strokestown Park in Roscommon, it follows the National Famine Way™ for 165km to EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum in Dublin’s Docklands. The National Famine Way™ is a collaboration between Waterways Ireland, the Irish Heritage Trust and the county councils along the route. The local authorities involved are Roscommon, Longford, Westmeath, Meath, Kildare, Fingal, and Dublin.

An exciting element was an evocative scene at the new Dublin/New York Portal with a symbolic passing of bronze shoes from one side of the Atlantic to the other. In a touching silent tableau representatives of the National Famine Way and the Liverpool Irish Famine Trail held out the bronze shoes towards the portal almost touching the bronze shoes reaching towards them across 3,000 miles. In New York Gareth Hargadon (Vice Consul General at the Irish Consulate) and Elizabeth Stack (Irish Historical Society New York) replicated the pose from the other side.

The walk began with a dramatic re-enactment of the events in 1847 which prompted the foundation of the trail including traditional musicians, school children and walkers dressed in famine costume. Members of the Tighe family, whose ancestors were evicted, read the names of the 1,490 tenants forced to leave their homes in Strokestown, march to Dublin and emigrate to Canada on the worst of the infamous coffin ships. Only half of the emigrants survived. Their names are etched on a commemorative glass wall outside the National Famine Museum.

The conclusion in the Dublin Docklands saw barefoot, famine costumed walkers re-enacting the sorrowful farewell scenes while walking through the National Famine Monument and onto the Jeannie Johnson Famine Ship.

The symbol of the National Famine Way™ is a pair of children’s shoes displayed at the National Famine Museum. The trail is waymarked by bronze replicas crafted by artist Alannah O’Kelly as a poignant reminder of the journey the 1,490 souls made. Ambassador McKee and the Liverpool Irish Famine Trail walkers carried a symbolic pair as they made this evocative pilgrimage.

Launch of The Global Irish Famine Way
The official launch of the Global Irish Famine Way took place at EPIC, The Irish Emigration Museum when the walkers arrived on Saturday 25th May. It is an extension of the National Famine Way and will be the largest heritage trail in the world.  It will eventually follow the journeys of all the Irish Famine emigrants around the world, including the UK, Canada, the United States, South Africa, and Australia. The Bronze Shoes that mark the National Famine Way will also mark each significant location on the Global Irish Famine Way. It begins in 2024 with Canada and the UK (Liverpool). Representatives from each are taking in the commemorative walk.

Fifteen locations have already been secured in Canada including Grosse Île, St John’s Newfoundland, Quebec City, Montreal, Ottawa. Toronto, Niagara, Saint John Partridge Island, Saint Colomban and Hamilton. Evoking the initial journey, these bronze shoes travelled by sea from Galway to Newfoundland on the Marine Institute vessel the RV Celtic Explorer. A series of commemorative events will mark their arrival.

The National Famine Way™ is open to walkers at any time and the route and associated stories can be followed through a free app. Walkers can also purchase an official passport to get stamped along the route.